Developing Trustees as Fundraisers

I attended a session the other day lead by Dr. Richard Dorman. Rick is the successful President of Westminster College (Pennsylvania).

He knows a thing or two about fundraisers and motivating board members. Before Westminster, he spent most of his professional career in development.

He wrote a paper on developing trustees as fundraisers and spoke on the subject. You will thoroughly enjoy his message and find it immensely helpful. He gives, “Some tried and true strategies for success” you will be able to put to immediate use.

Rick was addressing a standing-room-only crowd of college and university presidents. His remarks are every bit as relevant to any organization— the CEO or the development officer.

When appraising individuals for possible future board service, focus on the “fit” with the culture of the institution as well as with the current board. Philanthropy increases when the new trustee feels part of a team with whom they enjoy sharing the board experience. Some of the richest board members have soured the experience for everyone else because there wasn’t a proper fit.

Outline your expectations for giving in advance of inviting someone on the board. People appreciate no surprises (and it weeds out those less committed to your mission).

Assign a current trustee as a mentor to each new trustee, preferably one who would identify most closely with the new trustee but who also has demonstrated donative leadership at the same level you would expect from the new person.

Have the CEO visit each new trustee at their home (preferably) or place of business as early as possible after the person joins the board. Really get to know the person and his or her philanthropic priorities (hot buttons) as they relate to the institution. This will endear the new trustee to the CEO and solidify that essential relationship.

For recalcitrant boards that are not giving, invest in an outside expert to present some perspective on what other, more functional, boards are doing (failure to donate is a form of dysfunction). This person can lecture a board, where you cannot.

Consider soliciting trustee annual fund gifts for a specific need that is recognized as vital by all. Gifts into the General Fund aren’t sexy. Gifts given toward a shared purpose bring more meaning to the trustees.

Hand-write your thank-you notes to board members for all gifts received. It adds to that personal connection so few of us get anymore.

Showcase major gifts made by board members in “ads” in your magazine, as a way to establish them as exemplars. It reinforces their sense of fiduciary accomplishment and their pride of service.

If your current and former board chairs are persons of means, consider a “Chairmen’s Challenge” to raise quick matching dollars for some iconic project that would resonate with each of them.

Some trustees may be executives with companies that manufacture or sell products useful to your institution. Consider asking them for gifts-in-kind for those products as part of their contribution.

Like many people, some trustees are not comfortable asking for money. But most are excited about giving testimonials about the progress of the institution, and can accompany you on solicitation calls for that purpose only.

Develop a “Board Book” directory of all trustees. Contact information, pictures of the trustees, spouse names, and bylaws make this a useful reference and helps them get to know one another. The best donative boards see themselves as a team.

As with all fundraising, focus on benefits, not needs. The best way to accomplish this during board meetings is to find as many times as possible for clients or beneficiaries of the service to interact with the board. This will translate into more giving to support them.

Provide monthly updates from the CEO’s perspective on news of the organization or issues being confronted. Most trustees don’t think about the institution between meetings. This keeps you in their minds.

Each board member has a “hot button” (something they are passionate about). Find out what it is, and engage them in it with help from your Development office.

If your budget permits, be creative in providing thoughtful holiday gifts to your board members, and mix it up each year so they gratefully anticipate something unique and fun!

Make each trustee feel as if he or she is singularly critical to your success as CEO, and they will want to invest in your success.

Books by Jerold Panas (click on the cover for more information)


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